This study combined flow cytometry with standard cytogenetic analysis of first division cells to evaluate regional heterogeneity in 38 spatially mapped regions of a low grade human oligoastrocytoma. Histologically, the tumor was relatively homogeneous. In contrast, flow cytometry and cytogenetic analyses identified variable percentages of near-diploid (ND; 35 to 57 chromosomes/metaphase) and near-tetraploid (81–103 chromosomes/metaphase) populations. The largest proportion of cells in the ND population was 46,XY with normal Giemsa bands; however, four karyotypically unrelated ND clones also were identified. The development of these clonal populations centered around a region in which more than 50% of the cells contained nonclonal abnormalities and which demonstrated more histological pleomorphism than any other region. The frequency of the nonclonal karyotypes suggested that this region was genetically unstable. Three of the clonal ND populations resided in small, spatially discreet areas of the tumor. The largest and the most widely distributed clonal population, 47,XY,+7, underwent further evolution to give rise to seven additional sidelines. This investigation demonstrates that low grade gliomas have areas of genetic instability capable of generating mutant cells with the capacity to proliferate and to form cellular foci. As a result, multiple, spatially distinct clonal populations can exist in low grade gliomas, some of which are capable of further cytogenetic evolution and clonal expansion, resulting in tumor progression.

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Supported by CA50931 and CA25956.

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